IT is not every composer who can have two centennials of his birth celebrated, in two successive years; but Frederic Chopin achieved this seemingly impossible feat. Many authorities give the date of his birth as March 1, 1809. Some, however, including one or two who ought to have known about it, place the event in 1810. The latter date is probably right.
Chopin was born at Zelazowa Wola, near Warsaw. His father was French, and his mother Polish. From them he seemed to inherit a combination of Parisian grace and elegance with Polish intensity and patriotism. He was one of four children, two of his sisters becoming well-known writers. His father was a successful private school teacher, who imparted an atmosphere of cultivation to the family life.
Chopin at first showed an aversion to the piano. After a time, however, he took lessons under a Bohemian teacher named Zywny. These lessons must have been excellent, for they cured him of his distaste, and enabled him to appear in public when nine years old. Poland idolized him, and Warsaw called him "the new Mozart." Catalani heard his playing when he was ten, and gave him a watch; while the Czar of Russia supplemented this gift with a diamond ring.
Entering the Lyceum, where he became known for high spirits and dramatic talent, he studied composition with Joseph Elsner, and profited greatly by the lessons. In 1826 he issued his first published work, which he had preceded by several dances in manuscript. In the next year he finished his studies, and entered an active musical career.
At this time he was a great admirer of the beautiful Warsaw soprano named. Constantia Gladkowska. He dedicated some of his works to her, and stated that she had inspired the adagio of his F minor concerto. But in spite of his feelings, the couple parted quietly enough, with conventional phrases, when he set off to strange lands.